June 3, 2021
Good morning, and welcome to Protocol Next Up. This week: a closer look at the decisions behind the new HBO Max plan and the slow growth of iPhone lidar scanning.
HBO Max with ads is here: WarnerMedia launched a new $9.99 HBO Max plan Wednesday, while also rolling out new yearly billing options for people who want to save even more ($99.99/year for HBO Max with ads, $149.99/year for the ad-free plan).
The plan itself was no surprise — WarnerMedia executives had been talking about it for some time, and CEO Jason Kilar was a big proponent of ads back when he led Hulu — but key differences between the two plans hadn't been previously announced. I caught up with WarnerMedia VP Julian Franco, who leads the product development of the ad-supported tier, to learn how the company ultimately decided on what exactly $9.99 per month will get you.
Not making your customers feel bad if they opt for the cheaper tier sends an interesting message, and it's different from the way Spotify or NBCUniversal's Peacock approach advertising. Whereas those services see ads as part of a funnel that ultimately gets people to sign up for the premium experience, WarnerMedia seems content just presenting the two plans as different options. "You'll see us just market HBO Max," Franco said.
In a way, that's very much like Hulu, which has an ad-free tier but doesn't actually spend a whole lot of effort marketing it — and for good reason: The Disney-owned service now makes just as much money per customer with its ad-supported tier, even including discounts, as it does with its ad-free tier.
Franco said that the ad-supported tier, and the service's capability to support multiple plans (which he called, in true industry speak, a "multi-tenant platform"), will also help HBO Max with its international expansion. The service is scheduled to launch in Latin America at the end of June.
"You're talking about tens of billions of dollars of revenue … this is not like the budget line for printer toner at Apple." —Spotify Chief Legal Officer Horacio Gutierrez calls BS on Apple executives telling the court in the Epic lawsuit that they don't know how much money the App Store makes.
"I had something like this as my screensaver in 1998. It rotated or twisted and moved around the screen." —Twitter user William Li responds to the new Warner Bros. Discovery logo.
Many believe AI is going to revolutionize health care, from clinical applications in areas such as imaging and diagnostics to workflow optimization. Confidential computing protects the privacy of patient data by enabling a specific algorithm to interact with a specifically curated data set which remains, at all times, in the control of the health care institution that developed it.
It's been eight months since the introduction of Apple's iPhone 12 Pro, and we've yet to see massive growth of the kind of 3D asset-scanning enabled by the device's lidar sensor. That's according to Sketchfab's CEO Alban Denoyel, whose company aims to be a kind of Vimeo for 3D assets. Denoyel has been tracking the space closely, and also has been using the phone to capture and publish a scan every day.
iPhone scans accounted for around 5% of all the 3D objects uploaded to Sketchfab, Denoyel told Protocol in December. That seemed huge two months after the introduction of the device, but things haven't changed much since. "Unfortunately, this hasn't grown much," he told me this week. "3D capture is novel and not something everyday people have a use or habit for."
Apple hasn't promoted the feature much at all, Denoyel also noted. "To my knowledge, no lidar capture app has been featured in the App Store yet," he said.
The development of scanning apps is one area that the iPhone 12 did accelerate, however. Lidar scanning, which captures the depth and surface area information of environments to re-create them in 3D, isn't yet natively available in the iOS camera app, but that gap has been filled by numerous 3D scanning apps.
While most iPhone lidar scanning still happens in dedicated 3D capture apps, some other apps are starting to integrate it as a feature. A trailblazer in the space is 3D telepresence provider Spatial, which recently added to lidar scanning its mobile app.
Before you get too excited: Even fans of the iPhone's lidar admit that it's far from perfect. There's a notable quality difference when compared to professional scans, which becomes even more obvious when you use room-scale assets as environments in VR.
Mobile lidar scanning could make it possible for everyone to easily capture assets for AR, VR and more — eventually. Imagine someone scanning their living room to import it into a VR world, or capture their dog to add it to an interactive movie.
The demand for such assets is there, according to Denoyel. "People are ready to pay for assets generated with [the] iPhone lidar even though it's not prime quality yet," he told me. "I've sold a few of them."
On Protocol: Viewers are cutting the cord, so Scripps is launching more TV networks. The media company wants people to ditch cable and buy antennas instead.
Roku signs deal with Saban Films. The Roku Channel will get select Saban movies three months after they debut in theaters.
Nvidia Shield devices finally get an Apple TV app months after launching on other Android TV devices. Goes to show how hard smart TV app distribution can be.
YouTube has paid more than $4 billion to the music industry over the past 12 months, and YouTube Music just had its best quarter ever.
Oculus Quest may get a pass-through keyboard feature. Soon, you may be able to see parts of your desk while in VR.
TiVo is saying bye-bye to Best Buy. Products of the DVR maker have disappeared from Best Buy store shelves.
Ikea's next Sonos speaker just leaked, and it's a picture frame. Docs suggest that multiple frames can be daisy-chained.
Theaters just had their biggest weekend since March 2020. But what's going to happen once everyone has crossed "go to a movie" off their post-pandemic bucket list, especially with many films available for streaming as well?
What do you call an OOO email response when no one is ever in the office anymore? It's one of the many questions I've been pondering as I prepare to take next week off. Sure, there's always AFK (away from keyboard), which coincidentally was one one the first names pitched for this very newsletter. But somehow, there should be a better way to describe taking a break after what feels like a very long pandemic year. Maybe NMZ (no more Zooms), VAHF (vaxxed and having fun) or ATB (at the beach)? Oh wait, I got it: BRB.
Thanks for reading — see you in two weeks!